Hillary Clinton on Drugs

Hillary Clinton on Drugs

By Keri Blakinger 11/03/16

"Plain and simple, drug and alcohol addiction is a disease, not a moral failing—and we must treat it as such."

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Hillary Clinton
Know where she stands.

As this seemingly interminable election cycle draws to a close, here’s a look at some of the times drugs and drug policy have come up in Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the presidency.

She has a $10 billion plan to fight addiction.

Clinton announced her pricey proposal last September with an op-ed in the New Hampshire Union Leader.

“Fifty-two million Americans over 12 have misused prescription drugs at some point, including one in four teenagers. In 2013, more Americans died from overdoses than car crashes,” she wrote.

“This is not new. We’re not just now ‘discovering’ this problem. But we should be saying enough is enough. It’s time we recognize as a nation that for too long, we have had a quiet epidemic on our hands. Plain and simple, drug and alcohol addiction is a disease, not a moral failing—and we must treat it as such.

One prong of her plan is a state-federal partnership that includes support for some old-school approaches—like increased funding for prevention programs targeting school kids—and some newer ones, like expanding naloxone access. States with qualifying comprehensive approaches to treatment will be able to grab for a piece of the $7.5 billion in grant funding made available over a 10-year period.

The plan also includes a series of immediate federal actions, including a $2.5 billion expansion on the existing Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant, with the goal of expanding in-patient and out-patient treatment options.

But her husband endorsed some of the nation’s quintessential drug war-era policies.

During former President Bill Clinton’s years in the White House, the nation’s prison population exploded, expanding by more than 600,000 people, as Jeff Stein wrote in a 2015 Salon piece. That outpaced carceral growth was in part due to the former Arkansas governor’s tough-on-crime policy positions, embodied in the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994.

Bill Clinton’s presidency ushered in mandatory minimums for crack possession, allocated billions more dollars for prison funding, increased the number of death penalty-eligible crimes, and put in place new three-strikes-and-you’re-out sentencing schemes.

And she did too.

“We will be able to say, loudly and clearly, that for repeat, violent, criminal offenders—three strikes and you’re out. We are tired of putting you back in through the revolving door,” the then-First Lady said in support of the now notorious 1994 crime bill her husband signed into law.

On C-SPAN, Clinton called the bill “both smart and tough.”

Two decades later, that piece of legislation is often remembered as a contributing factor to the mass incarceration scheme that has devastated communities of color.

But now she’s singing a different tune.

Clinton’s campaign platform includes a focus on criminal justice reform, a marked evolution from her drug war-era positions during the tough-on-crime years of her husband’s presidency.

“We have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance,” she said during a 2015 speech at Columbia University, after a week of rioting in Baltimore. “And these recent tragedies should galvanize us to come together as a nation to find our balance again.”

In that reform-minded speech, Clinton ran through shocking but familiar statistics about the size of America’s prison system, touted diversion programs, and lamented the effects of mass incarceration on minority communities.

Around the same time, she generally apologized for the effects of that 1994 legislation she promoted.

“I’m sorry for the consequences that were unintended and that have had a very unfortunate impact on people’s lives,” she told NY1’s Errol Louis. Some saw it as a rather half-hearted apology even though, notably, Clinton was not actually in an elected office at the time and could not vote on the matter.

And unlike her non-inhaling hubby, she’s never toked.

During the 1992 election cycle, then-candidate Bill Clinton famously claimed he tried pot—but never inhaled.

"When I was in England, I experimented with marijuana a time or two, and didn't like it. I didn't inhale and I didn't try it again,” he said, according to the New York Times. More than two decades later, the ex-prez clarified that his hazy response was not a denial.

“I didn’t say I was holier than thou, I said I tried. I never denied that I used marijuana,” he told Fusion TV in 2013.

But his straight-edged wife denies all use.

"I didn't do it when I was young, I'm not going to start now," she told CNN in 2014.

But she’s joked about it.

When the Dem nominee sat down for an interview for The Breakfast Club radio show back in April, she had a little coughing fit on-air—and the hosts were quick to make light of it.

“You’re coughing like you got some medicinal,” one said, according to the Independent Journal Review.

“I need some,” Clinton joked.

Yet her actual policy on marijuana is… a little hazy.

During last year’s Democratic debates, Clinton essentially said she wasn’t ready to take a position on pot.

“We have the opportunity through the states that are pursuing recreational marijuana to find out a lot more than we know today. I do support the use of medical marijuana, and I think even there we need to do more research so we know exactly how we’re going to help people for whom medical marijuana provides relief,” she said, according to the Huffington Post.

She went on to take a slightly stronger stand on decriminalization.

“I think we’re just at the beginning, but I agree completely with the idea that we have got to stop imprisoning people who use marijuana,” she said.

“Therefore we need more states, cities and the federal government to begin to address this so we don’t have this terrible result that Sen. Sanders was talking about, where we have a whole population in prison for low-level, non-violent offenses primarily due to marijuana.”

This year, Clinton’s campaign issued a statement supporting the rescheduling of marijuana, according to TIME. Shifting the drug from the feds’ Schedule I list to its Schedule II classification would signify that the government accepts that the plant could have medical value.

Meanwhile, Trump claims she’s on drugs.

Before the third presidential debate, Trump suggested that his opponent was “getting pumped up” on some sort of performance-enhancing substance, as CNN reported.

"I think we should take a drug test prior to the debate," he said during a pre-debate rally.

"Because I don't know what's going on with her, but at the beginning of her last debate, she was all pumped up at the beginning, and at the end it was like, huff, take me down. She could barely reach her car."

And she has something to say about that.

The day after their final debate face-off, Clinton and Trump both offered up the regular candidate roasts at the only mildly funny Alfred E. Smith gala, an annual white tie fundraiser for Catholic charities.

While Trump’s barbs prompted some booing at one point, Clinton’s self-deprecating humor offered a humorous response to The Donald’s drug-related accusations from the day before.

“I am so flattered that Donald thought I used some kind of performance-enhancing drug,” she said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

“Well I did. It’s called preparation.”

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Keri Blakinger is a former drug user and current reporter living in Texas. She covers breaking news for the Houston Chronicle and previously worked for the New York Daily News and the Ithaca Times. She has written about drugs and criminal justice for the Washington Post, Salon, Quartz and more. She loves dogs and is not impressed by rodeo food. Find Keri on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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